Double Bass Equivilent?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Sir Squier, Jun 23, 2012.

  1. Sir Squier

    Sir Squier

    Apr 29, 2005
    I've been an admirer of jazz for most of my life and I'm recently starting to try play some. Ideally I'd own a double bass but the cheapest ones start at around 2k and the biggest problem would be their size.

    My mission is try find a bass guitar that sounds and plays as closely to a double bass that is possible. I'm currently toying with the idea of a fretless Hofner Ignition (Beatles' bass). Not sure if these actually exist or are easily obtainable. So I'm looking for recommendations from you fine gents.
  2. This qustion gets asked so regularly that it might merit a stickie; also, be prepared for purists to claim blasphemy for even thinking such a thing, or ignoring the question... that all said, IMO to very bad ears(like mine :))one can get somewhat close w/a hollowbody, flatwound strings, palm-muting & maybe a touch of reverb. Roll off treble on the bass & amp & play half as many- or less- notes as you would typically.
  3. BassmanSBK


    Mar 31, 2011
    Los Angeles
    Kala U-Bass. Nothing else even comes close. I use a U-Bass instead of an upright for gigs where space is at a premium.

    Don't believe the rap on flats, hollow-body, palm muting on an electric bass. It doesn't really work, if you are trying to cop an upright tone and feel.
  4. Sir Squier

    Sir Squier

    Apr 29, 2005
    I can see how a lot of bassists would strongly disagree, the two really aren't of the same kettle of fish. Though I tend to agree with the hollowbody with flatwounds.
  5. DeanT

    DeanT Send lawyers, guns and money...

    Nothing sounds exactly like a double bass, exept a double bass. You could try an Electric Upright Bass (EUB). They are probably as close as you can get to an upright in a smaller package. Basically just a neck with strings and a pickup. They don't sound exactly like an upright double bass but you can get close to the sound and feel of one.
  6. Yes, those Rob Allen basses are hacks.
  7. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    Similarity is in the ear of the listener. One possibility is a Godin A4 fretless. You can find a sound clip of one in this thread, post #6. Your's is the only opinion that counts. The A4 is a semi-acoustic bass with a piezo bridge pickup system. The A4-Ultra is similar but it includes a magnetic pickup.

  8. 4to5to6

    4to5to6 Bassist Supporting Member

    Nothing even comes close to an upright's tone, expression, etc. it's a totally different instrument that causes you play in a completely different way.

    That said, I've been playing fretless for many years now and it would be nice to get that sound if possible. I've found my Rob Allen MB-2 fretless the closest and can sometimes get away with it in similar situations that usually require an upright with good results. I've been tempted to give it stick on F-holes to please the bluegrass crowd. :) Seriously... an upright bass is an upright bass and an electric is an electric. Technique, sound, everything except the names of the strings is different. They are completely different instruments. My Rob Allen gets me by but have considered many times getting an electic upright but I could spend the rest of life perfecting my electric bass playing. I don't have the time to learn a new instrument. Then again, I could get a six month all expenses paid trip to study in France for six months if I played upright. The grants are abundent for "government approved" instruments. I also constantly feel I have to prove I really am a serious musican as an electric bassist. It's sad. I've threatened to record a serious classical electric bass album for a long time now and still think it would be a lot of fun. Now I'm getting off the topic of this thread. Don't get me going. This can be a hot topic.

    There are many styles of upright playing... from arco (bowed) classical to bluegrass and everything in between and many varieties of Jazz playing. Jaco pretty well defined the Jazz electric fretless tone but I think there is still room for some innovation. I like the way Jeff Berlin can get a fretted bass to almost sound like a fretless with his low action, light touch and playing back from the frets. I'm constantly working on Parker pieces and love old swing. There is really no end to what can be done on the electric bass. Just go for it. Don't try to copy the upright or anything... etc. Have fun. If you do love the upright then save up and get an upright. They are bigger to pack around, can't get around that for a true upright. You may consider an EUB, electric upright bass. I've seen good ones used for well under 1k. Take a few lessons from day one I've been told. It's really important to start out right on the upright to prevent bad habits.
  9. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    But some BGs sound a lot more like a DB than others. It is a matter of degree and most people who ask this question ask it because they have heard a BG that, to them, sounds close enough to a DB to be interesting. It is certainly true that if you want an actual DB then you have to actually buy a DB. But if you want a BG that sounds more like a DB than the typical fretless jazz bass then you can get that. The best answer to the OP's question is to point to some sound clips and let each person who asks the question reach their own conclusion. There are many, many reasons why a person would like to own a BG that sounds somewhat like a DB instead of owning a DB.

  10. 4to5to6

    4to5to6 Bassist Supporting Member

    Okay... fair enough. Here's a couple of YouTube videos demonstrating the tone of the Rob Allen fretless:

    Jim Stinnett / Abe Laboriel
    - a good comparison of the Rob Allen and fretted electric

    The Rob Allen doesn't use magnetic pickups, only a piezo transducer amplifying the acoustic tone near the bridge.

    Sorry. I couldn't find a video with an upright and Rob Allen to compare these two together but the above two videos will give a good idea of what can be done with the Rob Allen.

    Remember... tone is in the hands though. With a lot of energy and effort any fretless can get an upright like tone. I personally think the Rob Allen achieves it the closest naturally without palm muting, etc.
  11. lucas vigor

    lucas vigor Banned

    Sep 2, 2004
    Orange County, Ca,
    This. 100%.

    I did a gig with a kala, and recorded it. I could barely tell the difference and that of the upright I usually bring (which has a pick-up and weedwacker strings). This was a fretless kala uke bass, BTW.

    Here is a sample of someone else playing one live:

  12. RickC

    RickC Supporting Member

    Jun 9, 2005
    That's a Mouse 30 model in those clips, right?

  13. 4to5to6

    4to5to6 Bassist Supporting Member

    The first Rob Allen I ever played was a 30" scale Mouse at a friend's home in Seattle; he was going on and on about them. Needless to say, I was instantly hooked! It took about 2 years but eventually bought an awesome used Rob Allen 34" scale MB-2 from a studio bassist in Vancouver, BC I met through a luthier friend.

    Jim Stinnett plays a 5-string MB-2 according to his bio:

    Rob Allen is a great guy. After purchasing my MB-2 he sent me a bunch of literature on it and a custom fit hard shell case at a great price.

    Here's a link to Rob's website:

    His Deep 4/5 bass has even more complex overtones therefore making it even closer sounding to an upright's tone but it is expensive. These basses aren't cheap by the way but (excuse the pun) you get double what you pay for!!! Funny?
  14. Jon Moody

    Jon Moody Commercial User

    Sep 9, 2007
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Manager of Digital Brand Development and Product Development at GHS Strings

    You have to look at this much like the guitarist that wants to pick up a bass. If he approaches the bass as "the lower four strings of a guitar," he's still going to play the bass like a guitar and it's going to sound that way. However, if he approaches the bass as another instrument with a much different role and skill set, he will learn how to really play the bass.

    You need to know the nuances and things that go into playing the upright bass and why it's different than playing an electric to even have a shot at mimicking the sound. I have a completely different mindset when I'm playing my upright bass than when I'm playing my electric, and it affects the note choices, phrasing, attack and release, etc.. By applying that upright knowledge onto my electric (and using my thumb muting too), I get a fairly authentic sound that Music Directors specifically ask for.
  15. 4to5to6

    4to5to6 Bassist Supporting Member


    When I play a guitar... it sounds like a bass!
  16. U bass, Rob Allen, whatever.... you may get somewhat close to the the sound, but it will never be right because an upright is played quite differently to a BG. That Ray Brown/Paul Chambers bounce comes from the string being pulled, not plucked, by the length of the index finger. The physicality of this action is what separates the two. It's like a guitar player with a synth.... he'll get close to the sound, but it's near impossible to duplicate the feel because they are completely different instruments.
    Listen to some RB/PC on Youtube and you'll see for yourself.
  17. Sartori

    Sartori Supporting Member

    Rickenbacker 4003FL (fretless) with the bridge mute engaged.

    Also, I don't agree with suggestions to turn the tone knob down, at all. Turn the treble down on the amp. Upright basses do not sound like the indistinct woofy sound of a tone knob at zero.
  18. Sir Squier

    Sir Squier

    Apr 29, 2005
    When worded like this I can more understand the error in my ways. I guess the question I should be asking is, which electric basses are more suited jazz music with complex melodic techniques?
  19. I don't know about "melodic techniques," but when I have a jazz gig and I can't use my upright because of space or other limitations, I use this old (1978) Fender P fretless with flats, along with a touch of reverb from that there pedal.

  20. Jon Moody

    Jon Moody Commercial User

    Sep 9, 2007
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Manager of Digital Brand Development and Product Development at GHS Strings
    It really doesn't matter. Look at John Patitucci, Brian Bromberg, Steve Swallow, Jaco, Marcus, etc... All of them are using different basses (and in the case of Swallow, using a pick!) that give them different tonal sounds while still being used in the jazz idiom. I would say it's more about knowing your role in a jazz group over having the right bass at that point.